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Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in Racing Sailboat, Sailboat Racing, Sailing, US |

US Olympic Trials: the Grand Finale

Performance at the ISAF Sailing World Championship, which runs from December 3-18, will determine most of Team USA-Sailing for 2012.

With the Volvo Ocean Race finishing its first leg, the America’s Cup World Series wrapping up its first US stop, and the holiday shopping season off to a big start, it might be easy for most of us to forget that the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are only 238 days away. But for all but a few of the 1200 sailors assembled on the west coast of Australia for the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championship, next summer’s event is right around the corner—and yet frustratingly elusive.

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Anna Tunnicliffe's Team McLaren are towed out to practice by USSTAG Women's Match Racing coach Dave Dellenbaugh.

That’s because every country (besides host Britain) has to earn an Olympic spot in each of the ten disciplines. Perth is the country qualifier for seventy-five percent of the Olympic spots for 2012, and the US would like to secure all of its Olympic berths there.

For 31 USSTAG members in nine fleet racing disciplines, the goal is much more personal: win the US Trials and earn the right to fill that Olympic berth next July.

The first half of the US Olympic Trials took place last June at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta (read US Olympic Trials: Halfway Through). By combining those scores with this final event, 13 of the 16 Olympic team members will be determined. (The Women’s Match Racing team will qualify out of a stand-alone event in May 2012.)

So there’s a lot on the line for these athletes, all of whom have been training full-time in order to peak for this World Championship.

For those of you who’ve been following the USSSTAG Trials Tracker, the points haven’t changed since last June. But frontrunners have been training non-stop to maintain their edge, while the rest of the teams have been working just as hard to close the gap. It’s all on the line the next two weeks.

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Erin Maxwell/Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar lead Amanda Clark/Sarah Lihan by 3 points going into Perth.

Three athletes will win their Trials just by completing the Perth event, though they still have the burden of qualifying the country. Erik Storck/Trevor Moore in the 49er and Farrah Hall in the women’s RS:X are the only USSTAG members sailing in their respective classes. For Storck/Moore country qualification should be fairly straightforward, since they are currently ranked 12th internationally (7th country). Hall may find earning the US a berth more of a challenge.

In the other six classes, the winner is still very much up in the air—especially in the Women’s 470, where only three points separate 2008 World Champions Erin Maxwell/Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar from 2008 Olympian Amanda Clark, who is sailing with Sarah Lihan. In the Star and the Laser, the margins are in the single digits. It will be an exciting week to be an armchair Olympic sailor, even from the other side of the world.

Daily updates will be posted on the USSTAG Facebook page, where you can also cheer on your favorites directly. Breaking news will be posted on Twitter.

Carol Cronin